Rental eviction ban extended
Protection against eviction was due to expire this weekend, coinciding with the third national lockdown.
But communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, today confirmed that the ban on rental evictions in England will be extended until 21 February, resuming 22 February with no evictions expected to 8 March at the earliest. This will be kept under review.
However, evictions can still take place in “the most egregious cases” involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation, death of a tenant where the property is unoccupied, fraud, perpetrators of domestic abuse in social housing and extreme rent arrears equivalent to six months’ rent.
Landlords continue to be required to give six-month notice periods to tenants until at least 31 March except in the most serious circumstances.
The government added that a new mediation pilot will be launched next month to further support landlords and renters in England and Wales who face court procedures and potential eviction. This will help free up courts so they can prioritise urgent cases.
Latest figures reveal the number of court eviction applications were down 86% between July and September 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019.
No repossessions were recorded between April and end of September 2020, compared to 14,847 in the same period last year.
Further, Jenrick also announced that extra support will be provided to house rough sleepers across all councils in England. An additional £10m of funding will be distributed to enable councils to accommodate rough sleepers so they can be registered with a GP so that they’re contactable as part of the vaccination programme.
Jenrick said: “At the start of this pandemic we made sure that the most vulnerable in society were protected. This winter, we are continuing in this vein and redoubling our efforts to help those most in need.
“Our ongoing Everyone In initiative is widely regarded as one of the most successful of its kind in the world, ensuring 33,000 people are safe in accommodation. We are now going further and focusing on GP registration of rough sleepers.
“We are also extending the ban on bailiff evictions – helping to protect the most vulnerable renters.
Appropriate response or just a sticking plaster?
Richard Lane, StepChange debt charity director of external affairs, said: “While we fully welcome the extension of the temporary evictions ban, we also urge government to implement the same policy and ban wider bailiff visits, and to start building the longer-term recovery framework that will be needed to tackle household debt once the pandemic eventually ends.”
Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, added: “The housing secretary pledged that no one who lost income as a result of the pandemic would lose their home, but half a million households have fallen behind on rent since March and without further support they will get deeper into debt and face homelessness. To keep renters in their homes for the long-term, the government needs a plan to help them afford rent and clear their debts.”
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said: “The repossessions ban is a sticking plaster that will ultimately lead to more people losing their homes. It means tenants’ debts will continue to mount to the point where they have no hope of paying them off leading eventually to them having to leave their home.
“Instead the government should recognise the crisis facing many tenants and take immediate action to enable them to pay their debts as is happening in Scotland and Wales. The objective should be to sustain tenancies in the long-term and not just the short-term.”